An ex-Accountant General of the Federation under former President Goodluck Jonathan has reportedly refunded the sum of N1 billion he got from the controversial $2.1 billion arms procurement funds being investigated.
According to New Telegraph, sources close to the arms panel told our correspondent that what put the former AGF into trouble was payments made to him from the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) office while he was in office. A source said: “You know, when you are in office as he was, there are certain things you cannot run away from.
The money in question was given to him as a thank-you gift. But you also know that it is difficult to deny receipt of such gifts. The records are there. So, when the panel called on him upon discovery, he had no option than to return whatever he took.”
The source said that for now, it was not clear if the former AGF would be prosecuted or has been left off the hook by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). New Telegraph also gathered from authoritative sources that some former Chiefs of Army Staff (COAS) may soon be invited to shed light on award of contracts and procurements made during their tenures. “Let me state that the invitation, whenever it happens, will not amount to guilt; it will be to offer clarifications on possible grey areas,” a sources said.
This is coming on the heels of indications that the audit panel may have submitted its third interim report to the president on contract awards and procurements by the Nigerian Army. The interim report is coming after the audit panel had turned in two previous reports bordering on arms procurements by the ONSA as well as the Nigerian Air Force (NAF). The holistic probe spans a period of eight years (2007-2015).
Meanwhile, a serving Major General broke down in tears when onfronted with incontrovertible evidence of malfeasance, during his appearance before the 13-man panel probing procurement of arms and other military equipment between 2007 and 2015.
New Telegraph gathered from highly placed military sources that the two-star general, who once held a powerful position at one of the formations under the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) wept shortly after he was confronted with hard and overwhelming evidence of alleged corrupt practices in the procurement of military hardware.
The Army General was among the 17 serving and retired military officers indicted in the first interim report of the audit panel over the procurement of arms and other equipment for the Nigeria Air Force (NAF). “He was indicted in the first interim report on the Air Force. Now he has a case in the procurement of arms and other military equipment for the Nigerian Army,” the source said.
It was gathered that the senior Army officer, who is currently on posting at the DHQ, is alleged to have been involved in the purchase of some substandard Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs) and other equipment, for the prosecution of the anti-Boko Haram war in Borno and other troubled North-East states. One of the sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, owing to the sensitivity of the probe, said the General, who initially denied any wrongdoing in the arms deal, was forced to eat his words, when the audit panel confronted him with suspicious transactions made through his personal accounts.
“The panel discovered through painstaking investigation several suspicious lodgements in personal domiciliary accounts in about five banks belonging to the Army General,” the source said. The said transactions were all the panel used to humble him during his appearance. New Telegraph’s investigation further revealed that many of the purchases were done at outrageously high and inflated prices; a development, which was said to be too stunning to contemplate.
The panel, it was reliably learnt, allegedly discovered that the General was deeply involved in the procurement process, using his former position at one of the military formations. “Maybe I should tell you that a serving Major General broke down in tears when he was confronted with realities of his involvement in (alleged) shady deals in respect of purchase of arms and other military equipment.
“Though, he had insisted that his hands were clean, claiming that he did not abuse his office at a formation. All that ceased when the panel showed him hard and incontrovertible facts, which suggested that nothing could be farther from the truth.
“Listen, as a serving officer, what will such huge amount of money be doing in his personal accounts, as a public officer? “As officers and soldiers, we are not strangers to the fact that our esteemed profession is not one that confers outrageous wealth on us,” he said. Continuing, the reliable source said: “It is ridiculous that, what we are seeing was done by some of our officers. “The (alleged) fraud is so monumental that you will want to ask what is really happening in our country.”
A retired Major General, who handled finances of the Nigerian Army, confirmed to New Telegraph that he had appeared before the panel. “I was invited to state all I knew about the arms purchase. As a Major General, I was a member of the Army Council and I had the privilege to have served three Chiefs of Army Staff. So, I stated all that I knew about the procurement of arms and ammunition. The three Chiefs of Army Staff I served were not in any way involved in the arms scandal.
“So, my invitation was just a routine thing. My hands are clean and the records are there,” the General told New Telegraph.
Also, our source gathered from highly placed military sources that the interim report on the Army, which is now being studied by President Muhammadu Buhari, contains discoveries that are said to be more damning than that of the Air Force. It was gathered authoritatively that many retired Army Chiefs as well as other retired and serving officers, were indicted of alleged fraud running into billions of naira.
The sources, who spoke with New Telegraph in confidence, also hinted that some of the Task Forces set up in the past, were alleged drain-pipes for diverting billions of naira. “The panel has turned in its interim report on the Army to Mr. President, who is now studying same, and will soon direct the EFCC, to act, by way of investigation and possible prosecution of suspects, in the event that prima facie cases are established against anyone.
“In fact, the findings of the panel as contained in their latest report, are more damning and heartrending,” one of the independent sources, said. He added that “the panel also discovered that many task forces constituted in the past, were a conduit for siphoning public funds,” even as he added that “a Major General was also indicted in the interim report.” It was further learnt that the panel arrived at its conclusion after embarking on physical assessment and verification of some Army formations, where the equipment purchased or said to have been purchased, were kept.